Struggles Over Nature, Conservation and Land
A trenchant reassessment of colonial and postcolonial conservation policies in Africa and their impact on local inhabitants.
In Africa, conflicts between protected areas for fauna and flora and their surrounding human populations continue despite years spent trying to find an accommodation between the needs of both parties. Creating Africas investigates the roots of the current conservation boom, demonstrates that it is part of a struggle over definitions of realities, and examines the global effects of this struggle. The book discusses the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa, the Isimangaliso (St Lucia) Wetland Park. Here, conservation interests are pitted against those of industrial forestry, commercial farming, and the local communities struggling to have their land returned to them. They all seek to define and create their own realities but do so with very different resources at their disposal. These realities are treated not as different representations but rather as multiple, often competing, realities that involve a wide range of actors, both human and non- human. The book argues that to avoid being accused of neo-colonial land grabbing, the conservation lobby will need to find a way of imagining nature and protection that includes people.
Knut G. Nustad is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and a Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
‘This fascinating and meticulously researched volume has two foci – the history and controversy of the conservation and resource utilisation of Dukuduku forest and wetland areas of KwaZulu-Natal, and the more philosophical but vital issue of the nature-society divide in modern conservation. The handling of both issues is sure, detailed and includes useful reviews of the literature and competing arguments surrounding preservationist approaches, more mixed conservation discourses and those that combine local empowerment, sustainable resource use and conservation.’ — Keith Somerville, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, in Africa – News and Analysis
‘Drawing on a lucid synthesis of current anthropological debates about ontology, materiality, and enactment, Knut Nustad offers an acute ethnography of the history and politics of the Dukuduku forest in South Africa. This is an intensely used and contested landscape, where sugar farmers, small holders, and conservationists enact different natures and forms of politics. Creating Africas helps us think about how we might live differently in the natural world, and in so doing, begin to craft a more hopeful environmental politics.’ — Andrew S. Mathews, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
‘Creating Africas is a theoretically innovative work, thinking through the implications of the “ontological turn” in anthropology for the study of communities and protected areas. It is also an important contribution to the study of protected areas in Africa, highlighting the ways the history of parks in KwaZulu-Natal diverge from the “Yellowstone Model”. Nustad combines history and ethnography to show the how the Dukuduku forest came to be both “conservation nature” and a site of small-scale agriculture, and highlights the ongoing conflicts between these competing ontologies of place. Highly recommended.’ — Derick A. Fay, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside
‘Creating Africas is a good read and keeps alive earlier discussions on society-nature dualism. Nested has succeeded in developing a coherent analytical framework that weaves together various ideas of nature and practices of conservation, and contested meanings of land in South Africa … a nuanced analysis of nature conservation’ — Maano Ramutsindela, University of Cape Town, International Affairs